Friday, January 10, 2014

Take Your Pick

Suradhenu“Auspiciousness on top of auspiciousness, when that happened [all four marriages] the picture enchanted the mind. The amazing beauty was like having a heavenly cow, the moon, a heavenly jewel, and a desire tree all together.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 19.2)

kalyāna mo kalyāna pāi bitāna chabi mana mohaī |
suradhenu sasi suramani sahita mānahun kalapa tarū sohaī ||

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Those who are uncultured or not very mature in consciousness may chuckle at various statements made in scripture. While attending church if a priest reads a passage from the Bible, they may find the descriptions of different enjoyments and purposes to be ridiculous. The voluminous Vedic literature would serve as great fodder for such folks, but upon further study even that which seems out of the realm of possibility is actually assigned only secondary status in importance. The above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala gives one instance.

If you’re a good person you go to heaven. If you’re a bad person you suffer in hell. This is the basic understanding of those who are not intimately familiar with the purpose to religion, and more importantly, the meaning of life. Indeed, even some who are supposedly very devout don’t know much beyond this. In heaven you’re supposed to enjoy. In hell you’re supposed to suffer. The Vedas, the original scriptural tradition of the world, give more details into the exact nature of that enjoyment. Since they also deal with the essence of individuality, they put that enjoyment into the proper context.

Bhagavad-gita, 9.20“Those who study the Vedas and drink the soma juice, seeking the heavenly planets, worship Me indirectly. They take birth on the planet of Indra, where they enjoy godly delights.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.20)

In the Bhagavad-gita, which is the best summation to Vedic teachings, one learns that in the heavenly planets there is tremendous material enjoyment. There is a beverage called soma-rasa, and one is allowed to drink it at their leisure. All the beverages are higher in taste than what is found on this earth. One of the heavenly planets is the moon, which modern science believes to be uninhabited. In the Vedic definition, just because the living entities cannot be seen with the human eye doesn’t mean that they are not there. The many planets are considered heavenly personalities, which means they govern using intelligence.

There are also heavenly cows and desire trees. Both fulfill the same purpose. The heavenly cow, known as the suradhenu or kamadhenu, provides whatever one asks for. The trees are all kalpatarus, which means they grant whatever material desire one has. If you go up to one of these trees and ask for gold, you will get it. If you want a drink of water, it will appear on the spot. All the trees are like this, including the small and strange looking ones. On our way to work in the morning, we may pass by hundreds of trees and not notice them. On the roads in heaven, however, even the tiniest trees are most significant and thus honorable.

“By remembering Shri Rama’s holy name, even those who are born into a low caste become worthy of fame, just as the wild trees that line the streets in the heavenly realm are famous throughout the three worlds.” (Dohavali, 16)

TreesTo round out the enjoyment there is the heavenly jewel, suramani, as well. Again, you can get whatever you want from this jewel. While all of this may seem like mythology or symbolism to the less intelligent, even if accepted as just a theoretical exercise one can take away valuable lessons. While there is so much material enjoyment in heaven, residence in that realm is not permanent. Reaching that land is never purported to be the ultimate objective in life. It is simply the reward to pious behavior. Piety is doing something the right way. If you play the game right, you might get a reward, like a trophy. Next year, the trophy is given to someone else if you don’t win it again. Life in heaven is sort of like this. The duration of residence there is commensurate with the number of pious credits one accumulates. Once the time is up, the individual must fall back down to the earthly region, forced to work again for their so-called enjoyment.

Here Goswami Tulsidas puts the heavenly enjoyments into the proper context. He says they sort of resemble the image of the four couples newly married in Janaka’s kingdom. He indeed compares a single image to having a wish-fulfilling cow, a desire tree, a magical jewel, and residence in the heavenly realm of the moon all at once! Strangely enough, this barely suffices as an accurate comparison. Rather than come close to the side of exaggeration, it leans more towards the side of underwhelming with respect to accurately describing the value of the image of the four couples.

Rama and His brothersThis is because the couples are all God Himself and His immediate expansions. Rama is the leader; the eldest brother. He is the Supreme Lord Vishnu in an incarnation who appeared on this earth many thousands of years ago. Rama’s three younger brothers are also expansions of Vishnu. Vishnu does not reside in the heavenly realm. His position is fixed, so He never has to leave His home. In His realm the enjoyment comes through association with Him and serving Him. Material enjoyment has no place there since the residents have rightly cast it aside as being insignificant. In the highest realm Vishnu lives in His original form of Shri Krishna. There the residents roam a beautiful forest, where materially there is not very much, but everything is spiritual in nature. Therefore everyone is supremely blissful all the time.

A sampling of that bliss is available in the earthly region during the time of the divine descents. Rama and His brothers have the most beautiful wives, whom they accept at the occasion of Sita’s svayamvara in Janakpur. That event puts the material rewards into the proper perspective, teaching one and all that no reward conjured up by the materially afflicted mind could ever compare with the association of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and those who love Him.

In Closing:

Heavenly cow, wish-fulfilling tree,

Moon and jewel bring all gifts to see.

 

To image of couples not to compare,

Rama with brothers and wives so fair.

 

Full devotion to them offer,

And in this time genuinely prosper.

 

That heaven not everything they teach,

Target instead land of devotion to reach.

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